Roshelle Amundson

Serena Mira Asta

Terry Bebertz

James Byrne

Joshua Fischer

Gail Gates

James Henderson

Adam Hill

Peter Laine

Alice Lundy Blum

Tawny Michels

Dawn Nissen-Schachtner

Altamish Osman

Rebekah Pahr

January Rain

Sally Reynolds

Donna Ronning

Jer Rucinski

Jake Ryan

Kah Shepard

Laura Sourdif

Cat Usher

Jonah Volheim

Fear Of Indoor Parking

Rita had no reason to believe I wouldn’t show up that morning.  She didn’t know.  Who did?  It would have been our seventh or eighth date.  We enjoyed each other and she suggested we move in together.  It wasn’t out of the question.  Seemed counterintuitive.

If there was one thing I learned down at the Center from all the counseling and all the classes it was to trust my intuition.  Another was to develop good conversation skills.

Rita didn’t talk much and that’s why I liked her.  She was kind, didn’t exercise, and rarely got her nails done as far as I could tell.  We made an okay couple.  I didn’t own a sofa or kitchen table.  She did.

We were supposed to go out for breakfast the morning it happened.  If it was warm enough we were going to sit outside on the patio at our favorite restaurant.  It was warm enough.

I went to the airport instead.  I followed the lane signs with the bold white arrows into the underground garage for long term parking.  I spiraled down and down, steady pressure on the steering wheel, pressed against the door, around and down, dizzy down to the lowest level possible, and then I was there.

We built this one deep.  I drove to the far corner where no one else dared to park, where only a few lights and silence hung in the air.

I stared at the concrete wall in front of me.  Water seeped through the joints and left wiggly trails on the way to the floor.  Pipes that went nowhere were strapped to the ceiling.

I kept the car running and turned off the radio.  The tires were almost bald and the whole thing rattled.  The brakes were new.  I could stop if I wanted to.

I could smell the earth behind the concrete wall, the sand and gravel dumped and tamped years ago during construction.  Still there.  I drove a back-hoe at the time.  It was a good job, good income, something to go to and come home from, a constant in my life.  I needed a constant.

A couple of years ago a drunk smashed head on into my wife’s car.  They both died.  Hurray.  A drunk and a drunk’s wife.  She deserved better.  She was innocent and wonderful.  We were happy and loved each other.  I had to start drinking again, and I did.  Lost everything.  Why not?  I met Rita about a year later and stopped.

I turned off the car.  My ears absorbed the soft nothingness of the dark cavern and it felt good.  Everything was still.  I remembered building this underground mess, pushing gravel and sand, pouring concrete, losing my wife.  Then we covered the whole thing up with fresh dirt and planted grass on top.

Now you can’t see what we built unless you pay for parking and drive down into the lower levels.  And then there wasn’t much to see.  You had to be here when it was built to see and understand how sunlight once filled the bottom of this hole.

Blueprints and dirt.  Concrete.  People leave their cars here and pick them up later.  Come and go.  I stayed.





Whispers From the Animal Shelter

Bob lowered his head onto his arms and fell asleep at the kitchen table.  He was middle aged so he felt entitled.  He lost his wife nearly a decade ago and had an abundance of free time which he felt slipping through his fingers along with the rest of his life.

He woke up and made a decision - no more networking, facebooking or anything electronic.  He gave up computers, the internet, and cell phones.  Got himself a landline.  That’s all he needed.  No one called anyway so what was the point?  His unemployment checks would stop in a few weeks so cutting back seemed like a good idea.  A hobby might be nice but he couldn’t think of anything he liked to do.

A dog barked. It was the only thing that happened that morning of any importance.   Bob raised his head and looked out the back window. The grass was brown and matted from winter.  A collie spun in happy circles and barked.  No collar and no reason to bark that Bob could see.

How did it get through the fence?  Was it a stray or did someone dump it in his backyard?  It was rabid no doubt.  Bob watched it spin around and bark until it got interested in something at the fence and loped over to smell it.

Bob’s landline rang for the first time in weeks.  He ignored it.  He opened the back door and whistled.  The dog tensed and looked, then went back to smelling the dirt near the fence.

Bob whistled again but this time with vigor and authority, like dog owners did.  The dog charged across the lawn, through the open door and into Bob’s kitchen.  It slipped and sprawled on the tile floor.  It looked vicious to Bob but there wasn’t a trace of foam at the mouth.

Bob kept the back door wide open just in case the dog changed his mind.  He closed it when a woman trotted into his yard and yelled, “Yoga, Yoga, here Yoga!”  She carried a leash with an empty collar swinging from the end.  She searched back and forth and whistled and clapped and called, “Yoga, Yoga.”

It was a small yard.  She should have known right away that Yoga wasn’t there but she lingered long enough for Bob to notice her athletic legs.  She wasn’t afraid to let her hair go gray.  He liked it because it wasn’t all frizzy.  Bob might have been interested in meeting her if she hadn’t named her dog Yoga.

Yoga sniffed the air through the crack of the door and wanted to be let out.  He looked at Bob with soft brown eyes expecting Bob to open the door as if he had done it a million times before.  This familiarity unnerved Bob.

“Your name is… Barney.  No.  Cucumber.  Your name is Cucumber.  How does that sound?  Better than Yoga.  Who the hell would name a dog Yoga?  Nice Cucumber.” Cucumber bared his teeth and growled.

Someone knocked at the front door and the race was on.  Cucumber took off first and Bob chased him through the kitchen, dining room, living room to the  front door.  Bob won because he knew the route.  Cucumber wagged his tail.

Someone knocked again, louder this time.  Bob peeked through a side window.  The woman who named a dog Yoga stood on the porch.

Cucumber barked.  “Shush, shhh, Cucumber, quiet.”  He herded Cucumber into a closet, shut the door, and took a quick breath.  There was another knock on the door.  It didn’t sound as if she would ever give up.  Bob opened the door.

“Hi, I’m looking for my dog, she got away, it’s a collie, have you seen her?”
“No I’m sorry, I haven’t.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure.  I haven’t seen a dog all day long, or yesterday either for that matter.”
“I live on the next block.  Will you call me if you see her?”  She handed Bob a card.
“It’s a her?  Your dog is a her?”
She frowned at this and looked past Bob’s shoulder into the house.  He moved to block her view.
“Yes, a her, she’s a collie.  Do you know what a collie looks like?”
“Rin Tin Tin?”
“Lassie.”
“You should have named her Lassie then, or Barney.”
“I named her Yoga.  She’s a collie.  Call me if you see her.”

Bob thought she was going to hit him, but she left him a warm smile instead.  He closed the door and read the card: Emily Duggan.  Emily is a nice name, Bob thought to himself.  He had never noticed her or her dog before in the neighborhood.

He popped the closet door open and Cucumber greeted Bob like a long lost buddy.  She pranced and rubbed against his legs.  Bob returned her affection with hearty pets and baby talk.  She licked his face.  Bob hugged her.  When his wife was alive they had a dog.  Cucumber plopped down on the living room rug.  Bob sat next to her and stroked her ears.  He hadn’t felt so loved and so needed in years.

Cucumber inched closer to Bob and got comfortable.  She flattened her chin on the rug and let out a sigh.  Bob looked out the window.  Cucumber napped.

Bob peered up and down the street.  He checked the back yard then stood in the middle of the living room with Cucumber at his feet.  He enjoyed this moment.  He listened to her breathe.

Bob picked up his landline and dialed Emily’s number.
 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
James Byrne writes and directs short films, writes flash fiction, teaches screenwriting at Metropolitan State University, and lives in St. Paul.